I wonder how many miles I’ve traveled sitting in my recliner with my eyes closed and the music on listening to somebody else’s words and picturing myself in them or maybe even being part of them.
I’m avid listener to National Public Radio and the other day they broadcast a segment that paid homage to Bruce Springsteen and the 30th anniversary of the release of Born to Run. If you grew up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and were in your late teens when it hit the stores, there’s no describing how it “spoke to you”.
I was seventeen when it came out…
Now I’m forty seven…
In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American Dream
At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines
Sprung from cages on Highway Nine
Chrome wheeled, fuel injected and steppin’ out over the line
Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It’s a death trap, a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we’re young
Cuz tramps like us, baby we were born to run
I don’t know if sitting on my ass in a cubicle in a climate controlled office qualifies as “sweating it out” but I still believe in the so-called American Dream. I don’t know if paying child support and putting money aside for my kids college education was part of that when I was seventeen but it sure is now.
I grew up in Brooklyn in the good old days when the drinking age was eighteen and our “mansions of glory” were the bars we hung out in. None of my friends had their own car though. Shit, even most of our parents would tell us to either take public transportation or walk rather than let any one of us assholes borrow theirs. It was a great strategy, not to mention a great deterrent to keep us from wandering too far from home.
As for having the “bones ripped from my back” well, when you’re seventeen every little thing takes on huge dimensions.
I remember that line, the one that goes “Tramps like us, baby we were born to run” as being some sort of anthem to all the kids that were in the bar. Shit, when Born to Run came on the jukebox, everybody sang along at the top of their lungs and you could hardly hear Springsteen’s voice.
It was like the song and especially that line somehow belonged to us.
I’m still running ya know, just a lot slower these days.
Wendy let me in I wanna be your friend
I want to guard your dreams and visions
Just wrap your legs round these velvet rims
And strap your hands across my engines
Together we could break this trap
We’ll run till we drop, baby we’ll never go back
Will you walk with me out on the wire?
`cuz baby I’m just a scared and lonely rider
But I gotta find out how it feels
I want to know if love is wild, girl I want to know if love is real
Not to brag but back in the day, I had my fair share of “Wendy”s. I had a line of bullshit that was a mile long and I'm guessing that we all probably did. The funny thing was, whatever “Wendy” you were with was always the most important one at the time.
Until it all fell apart and you mourned for a bit and it hurt like hell but you moved on.
God, I wish I could see ‘em all just one more time thirty years later and listen to the twists and turns that their lives took and compare them to mine. I wonder more about the similarities than I do the differences. I wonder if they’ve ever discovered the love that Bruce was singing about and if it is indeed wild and indeed real.
Okay, this is the part when Bruce goes off singing
about being beyond the palace
I'd like to explicate it for you,
I really word.
But, since we here at E2 are subject to copyright law
and we want to play on the up and up,
I've got to limit the content of his words
to two hundred and fifty or less.
Seems like a shame doesn' it?
Like I said earlier, we weren’t fortunate enough to have access to a ride of our own so our girls combed their hair in the bathroom mirrors at the bar. The guys would stare at themselves at the mirror behind the bar and put on their “cool face” that if they wore it today, would probably make them look lost.
Because we were seventeen or eighteen and that’s what we were…
You know, in my section of town, there was no affordable hotels for us to crash in. There was no backseats of cars and nobody had a place of their own. If you were lucky enough to hook up in summer time, there was some nice parks though. In the winter, you had to rely on stealth, sneaking into somebody’s basement and sleeping parents.
It made for good practice for when you had kids of your own.
The highway’s jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive
Everybody’s out on the run tonight but there’s no place left to hide
Together Wendy we’ll live with the sadness
I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul
Someday girl I don’t know when we’re gonna get to that place
Where we really want to go and we’ll walk in the sun
But till then tramps like us baby we were born to run
In the bar that I’ve been known to frequent every now and then, when this song comes on the jukebox, it’s kind of weird seeing a bunch of middle aged, well dressed successful people who own large houses with white picket fences and the requisite two car garage and accompanying kids and dogs chanting “Tramps like us, baby we were born to run” at the top of their voice. I don’t know if weird is even the right word. Some of the more youthful patrons probably think that it’s funny. Some of the more rebellious of them might say that it’s a sad and pathetic commentary on the state of things.
For all I know, they both might be right. but for some of the more reflective of us, we might find ourselves singing along and recalling the days of our own youth when we thought that we were really born to run and that everything was possible if you could just get there.
As for me, I’m still trying to find “there” on a map.
Lyrics to “Born to Run” copyright Bruce Springsteen and recorded on the album of the same name.